The Gospel of Americanism

The Gospel of Americanism

I have recently been thinking of the Gospel, the Gospel of Peace, and the Gospel of the Kingdom, (one Gospel) lately. There are other Gospels also, some having a certain merit of their own. One of these other gospels may be termed the Gospel of Americanism. To me, the Gospel of Americanism is encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence, written by one of early America’s most able intellects, Thomas Jefferson. I quote below what I believe to be the heart of this gospel:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As far as visions for nations go, to me this American vision is the best I know of and it is a vision that has drawn many from all over the world to our nation. ALL men does not just mean men born in America. It does not just mean those born already free, as Jefferson well knew but in his own weakness could not consummate regarding his many slaves. Also, ALL men being created, gives acknowledgement that ALL men are created in the image of God, thus implying a freedom of religion, not only equality, among mankind. How Jefferson could write such visionary words and still write of other races being inferior, including those of mixed race he fathered himself, is perplexing. Nevertheless, the words he wrote stand, and are essentially the Gospel of Americanism.

There are differences in how this Gospel of Americanism has been promoted over our brief United States of America history. At times the words of this American gospel have beaconed, or drawn others to our shores. At other times we have attempted to force this gospel upon others as we have done with subversive endeavors in many parts of the world, the Philippines, Central America, Iran, Iraq, and other venues, and are still doing, thus enforcing the viewpoint of others and justifying their calling us “Ugly Americans.” This violent means of promoting the Gospel of Americanism is certainly not beautiful, as the Gospel of Peace we have recently spoken of, is. Sawing enemies in half with machine guns and blowing up entire households is not a pretty sight. We should not just take this life, this liberty, and pursuit of happiness and force it upon others, but should want to actively promote it and give it, not coerce it upon others. I believe this is the vision of our founding fathers in that our nation should be a haven of rest for the persecuted of the world, politically and religiously, and their vision was one if force were to be used, it would be defensive force, not preemptive violence.Preemptive violence is not just unethical, it is not just unchristian, but preemptive violence, according to the constitution of the United States is also unconstitutional, because it denies God given rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to those it injures and those it kills.  I personally do not believe in any violence, for that matter, but most of our forefathers did believe in defensive violence.

To me, one aspect of nonviolence is a respect for all life, including life of the unborn, life of our own family, life of our own nation, life of all religions, life of all races, life of both sexes, life of other nations, and life of our enemies. From an American gospel point of view, this life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness should extend as well to ALL. I quote from Jefferson:
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.”

How Jefferson could write such words as he wrote, and not reflect the application of his words in his personal life is an enigma to many. How the United States, founded with such lofty words as we are considering, and reflect the application of these words by preemptive warfare, brute force, predatory drones, retention of nuclear weapons, all the while claiming to be a “Christian” nation, is also an enigma to many outside our shores, and some inside our country also. In the very words of Jefferson, can the Justice of God sleep forever? Can we also say this life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness applies to all, then deport those who have come to our shores to live this life of the American Gospel that still beckons?

Here seems to be the problem with believing we are a Christian nation: No one wants to kill us for righteousness sake as they did the early Christians before Constantine. Now that Christians are conjoined with secular governance, (some might say, riding the beast), the reasons we are hated and despised by some is not because of righteousness, but because of our own injustices to others. We say these lofty words, as did Jefferson, but when it comes to actually living them, that is a different story. Can God’s Justice sleep forever?

Also problematic is the silence of most our mainstream religions who are supposed to know about the Gospel of Peace and the Spiritual Kingdom, regarding the injustices that remain from our conflicted political vision. I understand the importance of separation of religion and state, and agree with that separation, however, there is a time when moral injustices must be spoken against, such as the injustices of our drone warfare, for instance, which denies a portion of these ALL men we are speaking of in the Gospel of Americanism their rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is just one area to challenge regarding our nation’s and our leaders’ injustices. To remain silent regarding violence and the way our nation is straying even from the Declaration of Independence, our founding document, is to give tacit approval to the same. The means of application of this Gospel of Americanism cannot be justified by the end. The end is not looking so good either.
I am reminded how well this Gospel of Americanism used to work for us:
“The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883”

I am an early roots Christian, hearkening back to the Christian church before Constantine, believing it is better to be persecuted for righteousness sake than to suffer persecution for our unrighteousness. I believe no Christian should go to war and kill, nor did early roots Christians believe in killing before Constantine. Although I cannot agree with everything our forefathers wrote, I can agree with the Gospel of Americanism, that all men are created equal, that all men are endowed with inalienable rights to life, to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness. I call us back to those early roots as a nation, a time when our nation beaconed and drew from the whole earth such men seeking this vision. Forcing these “rights” upon people via killing, warfare, economic sanctions, and withholding food supplies and medicine is simply not the vision of the Gospel of Peace and I do not remain silent. I speak against these injustices and call others to do the same.

John Cooper
Tuscaloosa, AL

About jcooperforpeace
Spiritual Director, Spirituality of Inner Peace

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